When you’ve released as much material as Drake has at this point —three albums, three mixtapes, an EP, and a slew of loose tracks — the listener should feel like they know him or, at the very least, be familiar with his intentions as an artist. But with Drizzy, there’s more to it than that, because it feels like you’ve been with him every step of the way. Through the years, we’ve learned about his increasingly under-the-miscroscope life, from his relationships to his struggles with fame and everything in between. But after listening to Nothing Was The Same, it truly feels like we’re hearing about a side of the Toronto native that was previously hushed.
Those personal elements have very much been why he has gained such a massive following. Of course, solid technical skills as a rapper and continually improving vocal chops don’t hurt, but it’s Drake’s songwriting and the relatable messages within his lyrics that put him ahead and above his contemporaries. And that is exactly what makes his third full-length album such a successful piece. He’s sharing portions of his story, be it his childhood or love-life, that were apparent in past projects, but not like on Nothing Was The Same. That fact became evident when Drake took the stage of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon with guest vocalist Sampha, known best for his collaborations with SBTRKT. Together, they performed “Too Much”, an absolutely stunning track lyrically and musically that hits hardest during the second verse when Drake raps:
“Heard once that in dire times when you need a sign, that’s when they appear / Guess since my text message didn’t resonate, I’ll just say it here / Hate the fact my mom cooped up in her apartment, telling herself / That she’s too sick to get dressed up and go do sh-t, like that’s true sh-t.”
“Too Much” certainly wasn’t the first track the world heard from Nothing Was The Same. Underdog anthem “Started From The Bottom” has been out since the top of the year and “Hold On, We’re Going Home“, which features new OVO Sound signees Majid Jordan, is a slow-burning hit following its August release. And even though those two tracks are essential to the narrative of Nothing Was The Same, they don’t capture the essence of Drake, the artist, and Aubrey Drake Graham, the son/nephew/person, like “Too Much”. That’s not to discredit either song, because they’re important touchstones of his career. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” is Drizzy proving he can do 80s-influenced Pop/R&B better than anyone, and as for “Started From The Bottom”? Well, Drake took the ubiquitous “trap” sound, thanks to the booming Mike Zombie beat, and made it his own.
But it’s “Too Much” that serves as an emotional eclipse of any tough-guy moments like “Started…”, monolithic banger “Worst Behaviour”, and the Birdman-featured “The Language”. Those, too, are strong entries on Nothing Was The Same, which continues Drake’s streak of creating albums that meet and exceed expectations with impeccable pacing, cohesion, and production. His go-to producer, Noah “40” Shebib, handles the bulk of the instrumentals on here alongside Hudson Mohawke (“Connect”), Detail (“305 to My City” and “Own It”), and DJ Dahi (“Worst Behaviour”) – all of which demand the right soundsystem, like those offered on MySmartBuy, to fully appreciate the intricacies and layers within the music on this record, considering how strong and full-bodied Nothing Was The Same sounds.
An easy, albeit shortsighted, critique of Drake’s work is that it sounds like, you know, a Drake project. That argument loses its legs when you realize that few artists are capable of having their own sound and maintaining it while simultaneously building on it. Equally shortsighted and simple-minded is the diss that Drake, simply put, is soft for someone who calls himself a rapper. Self-proclaimed Hip-Hop heads had a field day with him mostly recently when the track “Wu-Tang Forever” leaked to the web. It’s much lighter and effervescent than anything we’d associate with the Wu-Tang Clan, but no matter. Drake pays homage to the legendary crew with multiple lyrical references (“Machine gun raps…”) and samples (the beat is a flip of the Wu’s “It’s Yourz”), which is a lot more than you can say about other so-called tributes to the Clan. There are even scratches of the “C.R.E.A.M.” chorus on the the first half of the album’s closing track, “Pound Cake” featuring Jay Z.
“Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2”:
Where the “soft” argument falls flat on its face is in the fact that he’s both self-aware and that rappers have been spitting emotional rhymes for years. In regards to the former, Drake himself best addressed this on Take Care banger “Lord Knows” when he rapped, “I’m hearing all of the jokes, I know that they tryna push me / I know that showin’ emotion don’t ever mean I’m a p—y“. He knows who he is and, after this many soul-baring efforts, so do we. Nothing Was The Same might be his most important release yet.
Purchase: Drake – Nothing Was The Same (iTunes)